In 2018, Megan Hunt made history becoming first openly LGBTQ woman ever elected to the Nebraska Legislature. As a small business owner in Omaha’s Dundee neighborhood, state Sen. Hunt worked with local organizations like Nebraska AIDS Project and the Human Rights Coalition, and pledged to bring LGBTQ advocacy to the State Capitol when elected.
In January, Sen. Hunt made good on her promise by introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy statewide. Her bill LB 167 would ban advertising and profiting off the harmful practice – with an exemption for religious leaders and counselors as long as they don’t charge for the service. Taking this one step further, her bill LB 168 would classify placing a minor in conversion therapy as child abuse. Both bills will be heard before the Judiciary Committee this Thursday, February 7th.
The Nebraska Family Alliance and the Nebraska Catholic Conference are mobilizing their members to attend in opposition. Per a Facebook post from Nebraska Family Alliance, the groups claim this violates freedom of speech and an individual’s right to choose: “All individuals and families should be free to choose the counseling and personal therapy goals best for them!” they claim.
Sen. Hunt’s office contends that minors cannot consent to such therapy, and mitigating long-term adverse effects is the obvious policy priority:
“Conversion therapy is pseudoscience based on the idea that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is a disease that must be ‘cured,’” said Senator Hunt. “This abusive practice has been proven to place LGBT children and teenagers at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. Our LGBT kids don’t need to be ‘fixed.’ They need to know that they are respected and valued in Nebraska. I’m happy to introduce LB168 and LB167 with bipartisan support to protect and support our youth.”
As the issue takes center stage in Lincoln, influential religious leaders and physicians are adding their voices to the chorus of support for Sen. Hunt’s legislation:
Currently, 50 municipalities, 15 states and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy for minors* and it’s been condemned by every national medical association and social welfare agency. The resulting uptick in awareness has moved public opinion against conversion therapy, leading to eight statewide bans in 2018-19 alone – and time and time again they were driven by LGBTQ elected officials.
While there are no public surveys available for Nebraska, a 2017 Gravis Marketing poll found that 71% of Virginia residents support ending the use of conversion therapy, and only 8% of respondents to a 2014 national survey believed that it’s possible to change a person’s sexual orientation.
We will update this page after Thursday’s hearings.
*Washington, DC and New York City ban conversion therapy for both minors and adults.
‘List of U.S. jurisdictions banning conversion therapy’ – Wikipedia, 02/05/18